The program had its draft for the spring game over the weekend, right?
What kind of experience was it like for the coaches and the players seeing them all-
“Oh, it’s a great experience, yeah! It’s something that we’ve done in the past with coach Harbaugh so it’s an exciting time. You go through the roster and you pick out your strengths and weakness and you pick out your positions and you’re going through and strategizing as the draft goes on because you have to fill those positions and make sure you don’t lose out on somebody. Really as a coaching staff it makes you a better coach because you’re trying to build a team and build them to strength, so it was a fun time. Really fun.”
What was your draft strategy?
“Well, you’ll see that on Saturday.”
Is there going to be trash talk between you and DJ?
“No, we wouldn’t do that. Nah, we wouldn’t do that. DJ’s a good guy, but we’re competitive, which is fun.”
Where are you now with the offensive line, and Graham [Glasgow] is back practicing with the team?
“Yeah! Graham’s back, he’s back and glad he’s back, and the offensive line is- they’re doing good. They’ve taken another step forward, which we’ve foreseen them to do and they’re on track and I think finishing up the Thursday practice, Saturday practice, pushing into the strength and conditioning phase and then going into training camp, they’re right on track and they’re taking steps forward, which is really, really exciting.”
Did Graham missing time stunt the development there for those guys?
“No, it didn’t stunt [their growth]. If somebody’s not around somebody’s got to step in and that’s what we preach and it worked out just fine.”
Mason Cole was getting work at center-
“Yeah! We put Mason in there, which was good for Mason. He’s an athletic guy and did some really, really good things there so that’s good for Mason and it’s good for Michigan.”
[After THE JUMP: Jim Harbaugh, talent evaluator extraordinaire, and we circle back to the center]
RIP Terry Pratchett. British author Terry Pratchett died on Thursday at 66, eight years after being diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's.
Occasionally, people ask me about how to be a successful writer. This is kind of like asking a football player about his rad interception after the game—I don't really know, it just happened. But no one likes that answer. So my second-best guess is that I read many different things over a long period of time, and written various things for public consumption all along. Eventually I'd cribbed my style from so many different people that the pastiche seems like something its own. Voila: writer with Voice.
Pratchett was the first and most painfully obvious theft of the Big Four. (The others: Bloom County author Berke Breathed, David Foster Wallace, and SI's Paul Zimmerman.) He had not yet made a successful transition to this side of the Atlantic, but I had a friend in high school whose aunt was in British publishing. She passed Pratchett along to him, and he doled the books out to me one at a time. I lost one once and was terrified that I would not be entrusted with additional precious objects. But my friend kept giving them to me. For a time afterwards my prose was littered with jaunty footnotes and anthropomorphizations of natural forces. A pale imitation of the real thing.
I kept some of that, toning it down, and as I was reading the internet's obituary of the man I found this, in his own words:
There is a term that readers have been known to apply to fantasy that is sometimes an unquestioning echo of better work gone before, with a static society, conveniently ugly “bad” races, magic that works like electricity, and horses that work like cars. It’s EFP, or Extruded Fantasy Product. It can be recognized by the fact that you can’t tell it apart from all the other EFP.
Do not write it, and try not to read it. Read widely outside the genre. Read about the Old West (a fantasy in itself) or Georgian London or how Nelson’s navy was victualled or the history of alchemy or clock making or the mail coach system. Read with the mind-set of a carpenter looking at trees.
This is what I've done. I barely read sports books. I get a lot of them in the mail, or at least I used to before people cottoned onto the fact that a review was not likely to be forthcoming. I read fiction, right now mostly science fiction, and I think it serves the site well.
Pratchett was endlessly creative and subversive, often taking hallowed but trope-laden fantasy novels apart then reassembling them into a half-parodic, half-genuine whole far better than the source material. He found a platform, then found that he'd rather make his own characters than repackage the frustrating ones he found elsewhere. He was excellent at this as well. He always maintained a healthy fear of hollow marketing—Pratchett elves are twisted creatures who live in a neighboring dimension that project an aura of glamour that iron disrupts. His most prominent and probably favorite character was DEATH, yes with the bones and the scythe and everything. He was simultaneously very weird and very kind and very upset, and I'll miss him.
If you're interested in trying him out, I recommend Good Omens, a book he wrote with Neil Gaiman, Guards! Guards!, and Small Gods.
YES OKAY. I did think to myself "by dang, Dave Brandon was selling Extruded Michigan Product" when I read that.
The difference here is an average of seven percent. Apply that to the average scoring this season of 66.85 points per game and you’d get 71.5. That’s over a point higher than last season when the scoring average was propped up by an increase in free throws early in the season. And it’s higher than any season since 1996.
…seven percent, which in fact precisely offsets the drop in possessions from 2002 (the first year for which Kenpom has data) to 2015. Kenpom also points out that the drop from 45 seconds to 35 resulted in just a two percent increase in pace.
If this year's NIT doesn't show a large negative impact on efficiency, I would expect the 30 second clock to become standard in the near future.
Miller says adios. Already covered by Ace when it happened; Miller releases his own reasoning on twitter. It sounds like he was just done with football. This kind of thing happens when you have a transition, and if Miller didn't have much of an NFL career in the wings (he didn't) it makes sense to just go be in the world… if the alternative you most closely associate with continuing is the last two years of Michigan football followed by a jarring change.
I don't think this is a major issue since Michigan finally has a lot of depth that is not any variety of freshman. It is an indication that the team spirit was worn down extensively over the past couple years. It's one thing to walk away from an NFL job—it's a job. It's another, or at least should be another, to do so when you could be a senior at Michigan. Hopefully Harbaugh can restore that difference.
But it could be a problem because… Graham Glasgow violated the terms of his probation and is suspended as a result. The nature of his violation is worrying:
Michigan offensive lineman Graham Glasgow has been suspended from the program, according to a UM spokesman, after testing .086 on a Breathalyzer given on Sunday and violating his probation.
Testing barely over the legal limit to drive is not a big deal if you are not driving… except this test was done at ten in the morning. That is a red flag.
If Glasgow comes through this okay and gets a handle on things, the OL can sustain Miller's departure by sliding him back to center and inserting Erik Magnuson with little loss of efficacy. If Glasgow flames out, then things start to look a bit thin.
But seeing your head coach lying on the ground during practice to demonstrate the proper center-quarterback exchange technique?
Well, things get real at that point.
"He's really hands on with everything," the Michigan junior running back said with a smile Thursday. "When I first saw him (on the ground like that), I was like 'why is he doing this?' But I asked the centers the next day if that helped them and they said it did, they said that was the first time anyone had showed them something like that.
"So, I enjoyed it."
"…and barely avoided bursting into laughter like Derrick. RIP Derrick."
More people. Erik Campbell returns to staff as a… guy… who does… things. Probably works with film, breaks down opponent tendencies, that sort of thing. Michigan also added Cleveland St. Ed's head coach Jim Finotti as their Ops guy.
Obligatory. John Oliver on the NCAA:
It's a racket. Related: here's Andy Schwarz on Purdue's "internal services" sleight of hand. Long story short, Purdue takes profit from the athletic department and pretends it's an expense they are paying for. In this way it appears like the Boilermakers are not in the black, helping the NCAA cry poverty.
Finally. Bill Raftery, at 73, gets to call the Final Four. Raftery manages to bring the enthusiasm Dick Vitale does without being a braying nonsense merchant; he is one of the chosen few media people who can be utterly himself without getting in trouble for it and still be awesome. (Another: Scott Van Pelt.)
“I would say it’s probably the longest I’ve ever been on the football field, other than a game with a rain delay like Utah last year,” said senior linebacker Joe Bolden. “To me it flies by. If you tell a high school or college kid that they’re going to have a four-hour practice in pads they’ll think you’re a bit crazy. But at the same time, you don’t think about it when you’re out there. Your body can take a lot more than you think it can. If he wants to practice six hours, and it’s (within the practice time cap), then we’ll practice six hours.”
This man was not one of the Big Four influences. A nation realizes that those rabid anti-Rosenberg Michigan fans were probably right all along.
Your brother told us that you threw people out of practice yesterday.
“I did?” That's what he said. Rick Leach too?
“No, you'd never kick Rick Leach out of a Michigan practice.” Who won the last time-
“That was exaggerated.” Who won the last time you two played golf?
“I don't know. He won the last big one.” He said he won nine holes and then you too played two extra holes that you won.
“I don't recall.” You had five practices. Are you getting a better feel for the personnel and what you have to work with?
“Yes, yes. You get a better feel for – you get to know people as you go. You learn a little more about someone every day.” Can you talk a little bit about personnel at the center position? I know you've had some attrition.
“Uh huh. Yes.” I was just wondering who's filling in.
“Glasgow's doing a real nice job. He's been a tough, steady player. We will need others at that position as well.” Were you disappointed to see Jack [Miller] leave or did you understand it?
“Yeah, and I appreciated the honesty and I have a level of respect for what he had to say and continuing his education. There is some job opportunities that he has and he's going to pursue that, so you always appreciate the honesty.” In terms of quarterbacks is there maybe one thing that you want a little bit more of right now? How's that all going?
“It's going good. We're making strides every day, like I said earlier. They're doing a lot of little things better and better each day and they're all really – it means a lot to them, each guy that we have. That's all you can ask for as a coach.”
[I purposely didn’t do bullets because you’re going to want to read everything after THE JUMP]
FORMATION NOTES: Hello tiny TEs. Michigan used a lot of formations where they would bring a wide receiver tight to the line to act as a blocker. Here's Chesson in what I called "pistol biggish," because it's only big-ish.
For its part, Miami ran an under front whenever presented with seven blockers for the opposition, and about 90% of the time brought a safety down late or just lined him up in the box.
This press look was not common.
Miami would roll that safety down before this snap, FWIW.
Michigan used a lot more under center stuff in this game. Under center stuff was approximately 55% of the offense after being maybe 20% against ND, and there were a lot of tight ends. Only about 40% of Michigan's snaps had 3 WRs, again way down from ND.
SUBSTITUTION NOTES: Line static: Cole/Magnuson/Miller/Glasgow/Braden. I saw Kalis in for the last drive, and I thought I saw him earlier in the game live but either I missed it in the film review or my mind was playing tricks on me. 61/67 are not easy to distinguish. Burzynski got in at the tail end at left guard.
Gardner QB; RB mostly Green, with less Smith and Hayes relegated to third down duties and some late stuff. Johnson did not appear. Mo Hurst(!) got a goal line FB snap. Showy, but a dollar says Kerridge is more effective. At TE, Butt got a little bit more time but it was still mostly Williams and Hill, with Heitzman again appearing sporadically.
Without Funchess, Darboh and Chesson were the main guys at WR, with Norfleet marginalized with a ton of 2TE sets. Damario Jones got about as much playing time than Canteen, making the first catch of the game.
[After THE JUMP: yards, eventually, and yet more infinite RB discussion.]
Hoke will tell us if someone is out for the year. That’s about all you can expect as far as injury updates go.
Graham Glasgow is taking snaps at center and right guard.
Hoke thought the team prepared well last week.
He emphasized red zone defense and finishing drives as the two areas that most need to improve.
Matt Wile and Kenny Allen will compete for kicking duties.
“Thanks for coming. You know, as far as where we’re at as a team, we went back to work yesterday and the attitude and how our guys have stayed together, the leadership throughout the team has been awfully positive. I like the work ethic and I still like the work ethic from a physical and mental standpoint. You always evaluate where you're at and what you need to do and what could you have done differently and we've done that. We've talked about it from coaching staff-wise, from player-wise. Preparation was awesome throughout the week. It was as good as I've been around. Preparation in Michigan City at the hotel was awesome. Feel very good about our football team in a lot of ways. We've got to prepare. We got to execute a little better but as far as where this team's at I'm excited. We understand that our goals are still out there and now we've got to turn to Miami and be back at home with our students and the Michigan fans and go back to work."
How does the defensive approach have to change when you lose some key people like out of the secondary? I think you talked about when you can press man and when you had to back off of that.
“Well, I do think you've got to know your personnel. Number one, you want to make sure you put your personnel in positions so that they can be successful. In the second half we played more zone and from a defensive standpoint there were some things that we need to be tighter on. Some technique issues that we've got to clean up. Sometimes that happens when guys gets in certain environments where your fundamentals and techniques are everything. I thought we lost that and some of that is the environment that you're in. You either speed up – and I think we did that a little bit because of that or you just lose your fundamentals and techniques. So to answer your question yeah, you look at it and you change it a little bit."
Talk about having Jake Butt back and what his ceiling is. You look at his tools and where his ceiling is; where might he go?
"Well, you know, Jake was kind of a gametime decision in some ways and didn't play a lot of snaps but we'll see how he progresses. I think we’re going to be very cognizant of where he is from a physical standpoint and what's too much. We do the same thing in practice, what's too much and what's not. The technology today with some of the GPS things we’re into teaches a lot and you learn a lot. Health and wellness issues are part of that and talking about Jake is making sure we are doing the right things with him."
Talk about his…
"Well, we think he’s a very good football player. He ended up last year very well. I think he's learned a lot and he's one of those guys who is on the leadership council that isn't afraid to, even though he's a young guy, speak his mind and give his true reactions and feelings."
Talk about some of the positives and the improvement in the run defense.
"Well, the front seven I thought he did a pretty good job from that standpoint. Guys that we rotated throughout in the middle of the defense, I think they were aggressive. I thought they were gaps sound. I think Willie [Henry] may have had the most production of all of them but he and Ryan [Glasgow] as a group in there, I thought they did a nice job. That was a physical offensive line and so we got to take from what they did last week into this week and improve upon that."
Devin Funchess- we saw him leave the game and come back in. How’s he doing?
"He's fine. I'm not going to talk about any injuries but he's fine."
Did he workout and everything yesterday?
"He was in the building yesterday, yeah."
[After THE JUMP: pointed words about a lack of faith in the Big Ten, Hoke’s message for Michigan fans, and more player-specific non-injury-related questions]
file because I need to remember to shoot landscape next time
News bullets and other items:
Jabrill Peppers was held out of the second half to immediately receive treatment
Yet it was not classified as a boo-boo
Delano Hill, Graham Glasgow, and Peppers are all expected to be available against Notre Dame
Kyle Kalis’ back is fine
Hoke said Ray Taylor may have played his best game at Michigan against Appalachian State
Hoke took Devin Funchess off special teams. Funchess got mad, so Hoke put him back on
Hoke said there’s a plan for how to use Glasgow
All of the coaches mentioned a plan. Hoke said it’ll be a good one. No one cared to share what it was.
“Number one, thanks for coming out. It was good to get the win last week. I think one thing was, part of that was that the crowd was into it. I think there was a lot of energy. The students, I know our guys feed off that so it was a great energy throughout the whole game. That always helps you as a football team.
“We need to build off of what we did on Saturday and continue to get better and improve offensively, defensively, and in the kicking game. Offensively, we have to be more precise in the precision in our passing game. That’s one thing that coming out that the offensive coaches and Doug [Nussmeier] really felt that the precision needed to be better. That’s mechanics, route running, the spacing that you need to have.
“The interior of the defensive front needs to be better. They got some yardage in there as far as through the middle of the defense. Some of it’s just fits, some of it’s not getting off blocks. That’s going to be a real emphasis and needs to be. And then winning the fourth quarter’s always huge and we didn’t do that as a team when you look at points in the fourth quarter. Those things we’ve got to do a better job. Turnover battle- we turned the one over, didn’t get any turnovers. You know, you don’t want to play football that way. You want to be on the plus side of that if you’ve got a chance to win so that being said those are things we need to do. We’ve moved to a new opponent, obviously. It’s one of the great rivalries in football and we’re excited about it.”
Can you talk about how the offensive line graded out on film and will we see any changes this week?
“Well, the guys up front all did some real good things and did some things they’ve got to do a better job of. We’ll have a plan for what we want to do this week.”
With Jabrill [Peppers], it didn’t look like he came out in the second half. What was the reason for that and this week are you going to limit him at all?
“He’s been in there all morning getting treatment. We haven’t started school yet. We decided- I made a decision at half time because they could start treating it right then not to come out in the second half. You know, [instead of being] in a boot on the sideline start the process of healing. So we’re excited and we’ll evaluate every day but he’s working hard to get better.”
You mentioned interior defense. Have you guys had a chance to look at Notre Dame’s running backs at all?
“Yeah. We started that yesterday, yeah. I think that they rushed the ball pretty well against Utah State. I think that have two backs that are a little bit similar and one that’s a bigger bruiser guy and they ran the ball pretty well.”
So with Jabrill would you say he’s a question mark for Saturday?
“I don’t think it’ll be a question mark. I think he’ll be ready to play.”
Did he go yesterday with you guys?
You mentioned the offensive line. Where does Graham [Glasgow] settle in here?
“Well, we’ve got a plan for it and we’ll go through the week.”
Do you want to divulge what that is?
[After THE JUMP: evaluating the defense, scouting Notre Dame, and the inevitable Nussmeier-on-the-sidelines questions]
8/30/2014 – Michigan 52, Appalachian State 14 – 1-0
NOBODY TOLD US WE WERE SUPPOSED TO GO THAT WAY LAST YEAR [Fuller]
I watched a lot of football on Saturday. I did not watch Magnolia because my then-girlfriend and current wife thought that her coping mechanism for sadness, which is apparently suffusing yourself in it until your fingers look like you've been in a pool of despair for hours, was applicable to humans. I mean:
That's what I did seven years ago. I had to turn it off because Magnolia is a movie that is unrelentingly miserable. I did not need additional resources in this department at that time.
I didn't turn anything off on Saturday. I watched twelve hours of football after getting back from Michigan Stadium. The only mention of Michigan's game before insomniac time was one dismissive sentence from Rece Davis, something about how there will not be "another seminal college football moment" this weekend. They didn't even take the opportunity to put gratuitous Funchess on the screen.
The only difference between this game and Michigan's opening-weekend romp over CMU last year: a nation's hope Michigan would blow it again. Once it became clear this would not be the case, a nation forgot the game happened before it had even ended. This was the best possible outcome.
So 1) hooray for the best possible outcome and 2) don't let that change your opinion about whether this was the dumbest scheduling decision in the history of scheduling decisions. The nation knew this about Michigan before Saturday: lol Appalachian State. This is what they know today: lol Appalachian State. On College Football Final their brief treatment of the game gave more time to 2007 than 2013. We are experiencing the maximum possible upside from this game, which is everyone immediately forgetting about it like Michigan was thumping a MAC opponent.
And thank God for that. Michigan eased out to a 21 point lead, and then it was suddenly 42, and at no point did Appalachian State look anything like a secret powerhouse; at no point did Michigan look so utterly clueless that they might blow their immense physical advantages. At no point did I wish I had a cyanide capsule handy.
The one thing worth noting here is that Michigan does seem prepared to deal with the football reality of 2014. Greg Mattison's defense played in the face of the opposition all game long, featuring nickel and dime packages frequently. They shot a safety into the box on most plays. They've got the personnel they need to deal with the spread. Possibly two at once.
Contrast this to 2007, when Johnny Sears started at cornerback in the Horror, with a patently unprepared Stevie Brown at safety. The linebackers available outside of Shawn Crable were Obi Ezeh, Chris Graham, and John Thompson. Michigan spent the entire day with two safeties twelve yards deep like they were playing Peyton Manning, and were surprised when the numbers didn't work out. Their linebackers were two-down thumpers for whom space is a cold vacuum in which death awaits. They barely had one cornerback, let alone a chorus line of them.
A big chunk of my spread zealotry has been the fact that Michigan has made it look unstoppable from the drop. They validated the entire idea against Northwestern and set their program on fire in the Horror and the Post-Apocalyptic Oregon game that followed. Put a running quarterback in front of them and they will die explosively. It's happened far too often the last 15 years for it to be a coincidence.
My primary worry about Brady Hoke is that he's stuck on a vision of 1990s Michigan in a world that's evolved past that. There was no sign of that Saturday. The defense's radical makeover paired with what was not the cram-the-box cro-magnon ball it certainly could have been against this opponent felt a tiny bit like John Beilein overhauling his program to be a man-defense, ball-screen offense juggernaut.
I'm not looking for a juggernaut this year. This is the punch-the-cow-for-butter year in which any yellow semi-solid will do. I proclaim this semi-solid yellow, and thank God for that.
Now let us immediately forget this game ever happened, like everyone else.
Parkinggod's usual Michigan-centric one:
And if ten minutes isn't enough here are 20:
Also a guy noticed an eerie parallel between Blake Countess's LOS stick and one from Charles Woodson:
Brady Hoke Epic Double Points Of The Week. Yes, points. We're moving this to a hockey-like three stars system.
Michigan racked up 350 first half yards while holding App St to 60 en route to a 35-0 first half lead, so there are many, many candidates. It says here that Devin Funchess gets #1, because good Lord that is an unstoppable freak show.
#2 is Devin Gardner, who was on point with every throw except one, flashed that athletic ability, and stepped up (up!) in the pocket when suffering edge pressure
#3 is split between Kyle Kalis and Ben Braden. Michigan started gashing App St when Kalis replaced Joey Burzynski, with big runs repeatedly coming over the right side of the line.
Honorable mention: Basically the entire defense. There were no particular standouts, though.
Michigan had gotten a couple of solid 10-20 yard runs from Smith and Green already when Green took the snap on an outside zone and shot downfield untouched by man or beast until 60 yards had elapsed. Runs. We may have them.
Honorable mention: They threw a screen to Norfleet! Any of the variously unstoppable Funchess touchdowns. Hellacious Stiffarm wins by a nose over LOL I'm Tall. Tacosack, hopefully the awesome thumping cousin of Tacopants.
Epic Double Fist-Pumps Past.
AppSt: Derrick Green rumbles for 60 yards.
MARCUS HALL EPIC DOUBLE BIRD OF THE WEEK. That one time Devin Gardner threw way behind a blitheringly open Devin Funchess to prevent him from going 14/14.
Honorable mention: That one drive where the Mountaineers drove the ball on the ground against the second team.
AppSt: Devin Gardner dares to throw an incomplete pass.
Jabrill Peppers was held out of the second half by the coaches because of an ankle injury. He’ll play against Notre Dame
Devin Funchess asked to wear No. 1 and cleared the number change with the Kramer family
No word on what position Graham Glasgow might play
Hoke wasn’t happy about ASU being able to run up the middle of the defense and will make adjustments before Notre Dame
Dennis Norfleet's nickname is apparently Fleetwood
Brady Hoke "Well,..." count: 7
“Football’s geometry. It really is.”
"Good way to start the season. As I mentioned to you many times before, this team has worked really hard and they've done a nice job. I think the leadership throughout has been good. I thought we played hard. Was a little concerned in the second half when they had the opportunity and they were running the ball on us through the middle of our defense. We've got to do a better job there but I thought the kids came out and played hard. Disappointing [to have] no turnovers defensively and we only had one sack. They get the ball out of their hands pretty quick and that's just what they do but should've been a little more than that. Had some opportunities and you've got to make them when you're there."
Is there an area that you were more impressed with between the points scored, the performance of 560 total yards, or the fact that the rushing yards surpassed the passing yards?
"I think the biggest thing was that we weren't competing with the scoreboard, we were competing with our abilities. That's what we talked about going into the game in how we wanted to play and how we wanted to go about every down. Statistics are statistics, and you can look at them and believe them or you can look at them and know that that's not really the true answer because there's a lot of things this football team has to do better."
Jabrill Peppers' status?
"He'll be alright. I'll be honest with you, at halftime just decided not to bring him out the second half. It's not a life-[threatening] injury or anything. He'll be ready next week."
Talk about the decision to give Devin Funchess the number one and how he responded.
"You know, the young man asked me about it and I said it was fine and I said call a member of the Kramer family and that's what he did. Ron Kramer may have been the best player ever to play here, the best athlete ever to play here and so he talked to Kurt, his son, and Devin being more of a wide receiver now obviously, he decided that's what he wanted to do. And believe me, I asked him who's worn the number one and he started with Anthony Carter and went down the list so I think that's...he earned it."
How he played today?
"Well, let me look at his stats.
/pretends to look at stats packet but doesn't because he's Brady Hoke and statistics are lies
"He was a presence out there."
Talk about the importance of 100 yard rushers and [playing] winning football.
"Well, we want to run the ball and to have two 100-yard rushers is a good thing. We wanted that offensive line to play together. We talked about taking them out the series before the last touchdown but really they haven't played as much together. You know, Kalis missed some of camp. Getting him back in and playing with him and the combination with him and Joe [Burzynski]. Getting Mason [Cole] as many snaps [as possible], especially with a quality guard next to him, I think, was important. I thought Jack Miller did a really nice job with our offensive line. Between the communication I was very impressed with Jack and have been all camp. They did a good job. There was a sequence – a series, two series in the second quarter where we lost some yardage on a couple runs and that bothers me. I think we want perfection and that's good because high standards should be high. That bothered us.
"There were a lot of big runs in there. You watch Jehu [Chesson] block, you watch Darboh block, little Fleetwood block, I mean, those guys open up a lot of the big plays."
starters arbitrarily decided to be people who started at least 7 games
I apologize. Last year's edition of this post started with an assertion that "things almost literally can't be worse." It wasn't sunshine…
The way this went down gives some reason for concern. … Michigan [will be] starting at least one player by default. Michigan saw what "by default" can lead to last year. While that isn't likely to recur, neither does the situation promise an amazing one-year turnaround.
…but I didn't recommend that you find a bunker and stock up on pudding pops. Last year did not recur. It went the other direction, hard.
In 2012, Michigan decided to flip their left guard to center on the eve of the season. In 2013, they got four games in before making the switch. Things were already bad. That switch made them worse, not so much because of what was happening at center—Graham Glasgow established himself a pretty good player over the course of the year—but what was happening everywhere else.
Specifically, what was happening around him. The Bentley Library lists starters through the years and one glimpse at left guard shows you the chaos:
A 6'1" walk-on got a start. A true freshman got three. A guy who retired after the season because he couldn't get breakfast without injuring himself got two. A 285-pound redshirt freshman got the other three. Reality mowed them all down, and by the end of the year the pile of skulls around the OL was not the enemy but Michigan itself.
Then their starting tackles went in the first three rounds of the NFL draft. Have fun storming the castle!
Rating: 1 of 5
I mean, maybe it'll work out. Maybe this rating will seem very silly at the end of the year, an overreaction to past events that was not a good prognostication of the future. I dearly hope this is the case. Gardner claimed he'd been sacked once during fall camp. It could happen!
Unfortunately, I can't make a reasonable case that you should expect much other than problems. Michigan has zero (ZERO) upperclassmen. The projected left tackle is a true freshman. The projected right tackle was supposed to be the starter at left guard last year but got pulled from the lineup after spring practice. He was not an option during the anarchy when literally every other OL on the roster was. Backing these guys up are two redshirt freshman who were huge projects and are still that. Oh, and the starting guards.
Maybe it will all work out. These guys are universally touted recruits, after all. If only that meant very much on the OL.
He blocked Clark! Probably! It's a still shot! [Bryan Fuller]
Might as well start with the big flashing DANGER sign: MASON COLE [recruiting profile], true freshman, is your starting left tackle. This was all fun and games in spring when Erik Magnuson was out, but things got very real very fast this fall and the guy hasn't moved from LT since his arrival and campus and Brady Hoke is just like…
"Who knows what will happen. You ask me today? Yeah, he would start. We're not at Aug. 30 yet. But he's more ready than most freshmen are."
…so he's the guy.
Since he's a true freshman I don't have anything more on him than exists in the recruiting profile published about a month ago, which notes that 1) the entire world offered him early, 2) he was possibly the most polished guy at the UA game…
it was clear that the Michigan commit was one of the most polished and skilled offensive line prospects on the East squad. The 6-foot-4, 280-pound Cole projects as an offensive guard long-term, but we aren’t so sure he could not be an excellent tackle in Ann Arbor during his college career.
…3) that he has the requisite athleticism and knee bend to be effective on the edge:
He is very athletic and plays with a lot of energy. Cole is able to bend and play low, giving him the leverage advantage over most opponents, though he needs to do so more consistently.
Cole is quick out of his stance and climbs to the second level using good angles. His feet allow him to play with good balance, which helps him not overextend for defenders.
All of this is great and Cole's trajectory is great; beating Magnuson inside authoritatively when Michigan seems to have a ton of guard bullets is impressive and there has been zero waver in any of this from day one. This is the profile of a guy who is going to be a draft pick very easily. We can discard the usual caveats about high school OL profiles because he has blown past all expectations immediately. Hooray for the long term.
This year? I don't know man. Let's check out
A RECENT HISTORY OF TRUE FRESHMAN TACKLES
Well, here's a thing: mighty Alabama is putting freshman Cameron Robinson out as their starter this fall. The slight difference: Robinson is a Peppers-level prospect, in fact ranked one spot ahead of him on the 247 composite. At 323 he's less of a size question than Cole.
In terms of guys who did play:
Oregon Statestarted Sean Harlow at right tackle. The Beavers were middling in pass protection… and 109th in YPC.
Virginiaplayed Eric Smith, also at right tackle. UVA was also middling in pass protection… and 91st in YPC.
Maryland managed to start true freshman left tackles in consecutive years(!). Mike Madaras left abruptly after his first year, paving the way for Moise Larose to get four starts before a foot injury ended his year. Larose is now suspended for 2014. Feel the Terpitude. The 2012 Terps were completely terrible in all line-related stats; last year they were okay at pass protection.
Virginia Tech started Jonathan McLaughlin all last year, and I don't even have to look their stats up to know they were a tire fire. Aaand yup: 99th and worse.
Ole Miss started Laremy Tunsil, a Robinson-level five star. Mississippi was… okay! 42nd in YPC, 74th in sacks allowed.
So… that's not at all encouraging. Cole was a much more highly touted prospect than all of those guys save Tunsil, at least, and he 1) enrolled early and 2) came from one of those super serious Florida high schools that are almost college programs in their own right. Also the way he was the LT starter from about a week into spring without challenge is a hopeful sign.
The occasional freshman tackle can cope. I think Cole is one of those guys. But is he going to blow a guy off the ball and provide a big ol' lane at 292 pounds? Probably not. Our hope here is that Cole is a solid, agile pass protector in year one who is a meh run blocker. Chances are he has a wake-up call or two coming.